Far-left Democrats were quick to stir intra-party divisions on Tuesday after Republicans swept the Virginia governor’s race and other statewide offices.
Progressive groups and lawmakers blamed the loss in particular on the intransigence of two moderate Democrats in Washington, Sens. Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema, who have prevented President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social-welfare bill from moving forward.
“More Virginians would have voted Democratic if they had child care and if Democrats had accomplished what we promised for years,” the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement.
The PCCC’s statement came shortly after Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAullife in the race to be Virginia’s chief executive. Mr. McAullife, a Democrat who previously served as governor between 2014-2018, attempted to nationalize the race in recent weeks.
The PCCC, which has raised millions of dollars to bankroll liberal candidates at the state and federal levels, said that if congressional Democrats had offered voters new entitlement programs, such as paid family leave, the loss in Virginia could have been averted.
While the PCCC did not mention Mr. Manchin, of West Virginia, and Ms. Sinema, of Arizona, by name, the organization let it be known they were to blame. Both lawmakers have opposed expediting Mr. Biden’s social welfare bill.
“Terry McAuliffe sadly can blame his loss on a few corporate-aligned obstructionist Democrats who blocked bold action in Congress, plus his own reliance on backward-looking Trump messaging,” the group said. “The lesson going into 2022 is that Democrats need to use power to get big things done for working people and then run on those accomplishments.”
Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema have long been a thorn in the side of liberal Democrats as they struggle to cobble a deal on the spending. Their influence is especially strong since Democrats plan to push the package through in party-line votes using budget reconciliation, a process allowing spending measures to pass the 50-50 Senate by a simple majority.
The two lawmakers have forced Mr. Biden to shave his spending deal from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, dropping in the process free college tuition and a 12-week federal paid leave guarantee.
Not everyone was quick to blame moderate Democrats for the loss in Virginia.
David Axelrod, a onetime adviser to former President Barack Obama, argued that the results in Virginia likely underscore the concerns Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinem have raised about the spending package.
“If you are a Democrat on Capitol Hill and you are from a swing district in suburban areas, are you rethinking tonight your vote on this reconciliation package?” he said during an appearance on CNN. “I know how this goes, I’ve experienced it. I know when things go badly, people begin to think of themselves.”
Progressives disagree, however. They argue the entitlement package would have given Mr. McAullife something to champion, rather than just attempting to relitigate the 2020 election.
On television and in-person, Mr. McAullife lambasted Mr. Youngkin as a far-right extremist, while attempting to link him to former President Donald Trump.
The tactic appears to have backfired. Exit polling shows that Democrats severely underperformed with suburban and minority voters, two groups instrumental to Mr. Biden’s 10-point victory in the state last year.
Progressives say that a failure to act on Mr. Biden’s promises in Washington was key, alongside Mr. McAullife’s over-zealous focus on Mr. Trump.
“Democrats won’t win simply by branding one opponent after another as a Trump clone, and then hoping to squeak out a razor-thin win,” said the PCCC. “When Democrats fail to run on big ideas or fulfill bold campaign promises, we depress our base while allowing Republicans to use culture wars to hide their real agenda.”